The news that came out last week about Chris Culliver was a rather untimely thing. Culliver had done a good job of restoring his public perception. He just received an award for his work with guide dogs and with the San Francisco SPCA. The table was turning in his favor. The San Francisco 49ers chose to move on from Carlos Rogers and Tarrel Brown. As a result, Tremaine Brock and Culliver were set to be the starters. Unfortunately, the recent news may put that into question and it may cause the 49ers to not veer away from selecting a cornerback in the first round.
There has been a lot of talk about the 49ers selecting either Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller or TCU’s Jason Verrett with the 30th pick. Both of these players are extremely physical and specialize in lining up over top of slot receivers. This was already a big need for the 49ers with the release of Carlos Rogers. There are a few players that can play nickel and can be selected later in the draft such as E.J. Gaines from Missouri and Jaylen Watkins from Flordia. Prior to the Culliver news, the 49ers had more flexibility to consider another position with their first round pick. Now they may need a player that can start at his position.
The 49ers have said before that they will stand by Culliver as long as he doesn’t cause any trouble. This was after his comments during a Super Bowl press conference. Culliver is set to be a free agent after this season. He didn’t do himself any justice by getting caught up in the recent events. If the 49ers decide to release him, he only has $149,719 in dead money on his contract. The uncertainty that has come up puts more importance on drafting a cornerback that can develop into a starter quickly.
Typically, if a corner is selected in the first round, they are expected to be a starter. The problem with how the 49ers have things set up is that they in essence need two starters. The nickel spot is not truly a starting position but it is very important now because of the wide open passing attacks that are so abundant. Eric Wright and Perish Cox are two players that were brought back on smaller deals and can play the nickel spot. However, both of them are on one year deals as well.
The bottom line is that the 49ers will need to draft at least two corners, one of which has to be able to bring some stability to the nickel spot. This draft class is very deep at corner but in my opinion, Fuller is a must have if he is there with the 3oth pick. Quite frankly, Fuller is my top corner in this draft. Yes, some are high on Justin Gilbert but not me. I don’t like how much he refrains from being physical at the line of scrimmage. His off man skills are elite and he has very good ball skills but Fuller is more complete and doesn’t give up as many completions. There are some who are big on Darqueze Dennard and actually suggested trading up for him. I couldn’t disagree more. He is the type of corner that is lost if he is not able to get a jam on receivers. He was also penalized for pass interference or holding in at least eight of the nine games that I watched him play. No thanks.
Jim Harbaugh was on hand for the pro day at Virginia Tech and Trent Baalke was at Florida for the Gators pro day as well. I am sure that Harbaugh was there to see the big armed quarterback Logan Thomas but Fuller has consistently impressed at workouts. Baalke watched the three cornerback prospects (Louchiez Purifoy, Marcus Roberson, Watkins) workout in the rain at Florida. Physical style of football is in the 49ers DNA. Watkins and Fuller are two very physical players that would come in and contribute right away for the 49ers. The Culliver situation makes it even more imperative to hit on their selections in the 2014 NFL Draft.